tremble clef

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Permer, "Summerdays Attract The Pain" (2002)

For too long, the humble sticker that gets slapped on album covers has toiled in obscurity. It gets no credit, it gets no love. Today is the day that we break the silence, and right the injustice. Via a rambling ode, no less.

The neglect of the sticker contrasts with the attention that has been paid to all the other components of the album package (by now "album" is mostly synonymous with "CD"; no doubt at some point in the future, the album and thus its package will even cease to exist, but that's another post). The sleeve and its artwork, is of course carefully pored over. Certainly by the designers and artists themselves (well, unless you're a band intent on seeing if you can get away with smearing literal shit on construction paper and calling it "sleeve artwork," or Bon Jovi), and oftentimes by critics and fans too ("Paul, he dead!"). Even leaving aside physical changes -- the way a CD used to sit in a case which then nestles inside a longbox, for instance -- the jewel case itself has been deconstructed, its possibilities thoroughly explored. I think, for example, of how Sandy Lam and many other Chinese artists turned the back of the case into the front, or how Pet Shop Boys transformed one case into an orange Lego brick and sandblasted another.

But that sticker on the jewel case? Where are the expensive Taschen books devoted to 1001 Jewel Case Stickers (Now With Scratch 'n' Sniff Properties)?

The reason why the sticker tends to be overlooked is that it is both a part, and yet not a part, of the CD packaging. It's like a Derridean supplément! (Sorry. Not sure what came over me.) We're usually encouraged to think of the sticker as something that the artist doesn't fully endorse -- or is indifferent to, or even vaguely ashamed of. Yet, at the same time, the sticker is something that, of course, record companies use, but even artists and designers contend with.

Artists sometimes would like us to ignore that sticker because it carries information that range from the boring to the crass, all of which performers usually need to put out there, and yet also want to disavow. In the category of "boring": "Pay No More Than £2." "With the #1 hit 'We Belong Together'!" But then again, to many fans, no information is ever boring. We scour stickers for hints, clues, further information. When Madonna's Confessions was about to be released, some people waited with bated breath to see what songs the label would list the CD as "including," since this would be one indication of what singles had been picked. It's not always accurate, of course: some copies of the Sugababes' Taller In More Ways said the album "features Push the Button, Ugly, and Obsession," but the last looks unlikely to be a single.

And the crass? I remember that my vinyl copy of The Banderas' Ripe had an utterly shameless sticker that, I swear, said something like:

Produced by
stephen hague, who's worked with

That's vulgar enough to be hysterically funny. I mean, I love that Banderas album, but it's like they were targeting fans of the Pet Shop Boys...who are also myopic, or even more preferably, legally blind.

A little less embarrassing is the CD cover of my (promo) copy of Permer's Summerdays Attract The Pain, which boasts a sticker proclaiming that the Swedish musician makes "addictive, minor-key, electro-dance-pop for fans for fans of St. Etienne, Stars, Pet Shop Boys, and The Notwist from leader of Swedish duo WALTZ FOR DEBBIE." And he does: the title track is a perfectly lovely slice of Europop that could come before "Burnt Out Car" in a mixtape. Given that the bottom of the the label lists contact information, this sticker is clearly a record company deed. I don't know if Martin Permer would blanche at being promoted in such a blatant way, but perhaps he wouldn't be too ashamed to wear his influences on his album sleeve. He is Swedish. I would like to be able to say that the sticker did its job and was the sole thing that hooked me on the CD (because, c'mon, PetShopBoysSaintEtienneandStars? It's like whoever wrote that sticker was out to make me his bitch. And I even have that Waltz for Debbie CD). But the truth is more banal: I first heard a Permer track on a Parasol compilation CD, and was already intrigued when I found the CD. (The price sticker, which is a whole other kettle of fish, on the back of the CD reminds me where: at Encore Records in Ann Arbor, for $7.55.)

Anyway, because stickers often convey information that's either blah or nakedly PRish -- they are like mini press releases, really, except harder to scrap off, more not too different from PR agents after all, HA! -- artists don't often embrace them officially. But I think they would be disingenous to claim that such stickers are always record company additions after-the-fact. The artwork published on the net for Pet Shop Boys' "I'm With Stupid" already includes the sticker -- which, like any good fan, I immediately squinted at until I could determine that the b-side is called "The Resurrectionist." And when the sleeve for Girls Aloud's Chemistry was revealed, one disappointed fan at the Popjustice boards pointed out how it almost looks like there's a missing girl in the top right hand corner. To which another wag suggested that the empty space was probably just for the inevitable "features three Top 10 hits" sticker. Funny, and probably true. It at least raises the possibility that the sticker is more a part of an album cover design than the official position might suggest.

Seriously: supplément.

If it's not apparent by now: I like those stickers. In countries that put out CDs in shrinkwrap, the sticker is usually stuck on the plastic. I can tell you that some people will actually rip the shrinkwrap off, and then cut around the edges of the sticker and save it. Perhaps he needs them in order to remember exactly what the album "features," how many of its hits were "#1!", or who to contact at the record company should he want his money back. All he knows is that he needs that sticker.


  • I quite like the Permer song. Although I think the vocals aren't that exciting. Maybe he should have used a different singer.

    By Blogger daavid, at 3:11 AM  

  • No, his vocals are bland at best, shitty at worst. On the album the female band member does some singing, but she is also not very distinctive. This is a duet between them which is okay, because two weak voices add up to an average one, I guess.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 12:19 PM  

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